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DAILY SURVEY 12.03.2018.
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SERBIA

XI JINPING: CHINESE-SERBIAN FRIENDSHIP IS FIRM, INDESTRUCTIBLE

Belgrade, 11 March 2018 (Beta) - Chinese President Xi Jinping wrote to his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, saying in the letter that "China and Serbia share a traditional friendship, firm and indestructible," adding that he was ready to visit Serbia again. The Chinese president thanked Vucic for having wished him a happy Chinese New Year, underlining that he held him in high regard for his consistent efforts to develop friendship and cooperation with China. "The traditional friendship between China and Serbia is firm and indestructible. Over the past few years, joint efforts have resulted in historic progress in the bilateral relationship, which makes me very happy. China respects and supports the path of development the Serbian people have chosen independently, and is very satisfied to see the results of economic and social development in Serbia in the past few years," the Serbian presidency quoted the Chinese president as saying on March 11. President Xi Jinping said he paid special attention to the development of Chinese-Serbian relations, and added that he was ready to choose with Vucic the direction in which bilateral relations would develop, and discuss with his Serbian counterpart more dynamic cooperation within the One Belt, One Road initiative, as well as better international and regional coordination to raise to the next level the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two states. "Thank you for your invitation to visit Serbia. I am ready to meet with you again, at the time convenient for both parties," the president said in the letter.

FRENCH AMBASSADOR: SERBIA IS A FACTOR OF STABILITY, MAJOR ECONOMIC PARTNER IN THE BALKANS

Belgrade, 9 March 2018 (Beta) - French Ambassador Frederic Mondoloni said at a March 9 meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic that for France Serbia was "a factor of stability in the region, and the leading economic partner." The Serbian government reported in a press release that the ambassador handed to the Serbian PM a letter from her French counterpart, Edouard Philippe, conveying to her his "commitment to the development of bilateral ties with Serbia." The ambassador said that France "supported Serbia very strongly on its path to the EU," and that the Union's decision to adopt a new enlargement strategy was positive as "an additional boost" to Serbian reforms and economic growth. Brnabic also underlined the importance of the upcoming visit by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to Serbia late in April. The prime minister said it was also very important that the French president, Emmanuel Macron, would visit Serbia in the year of marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. The ambassador and the prime minister agreed that the fact that the Nikola Tesla Airport concession had gone to France's Vinci Airports was a good example of successful bilateral cooperation.

SERBIAN, SLOVENIAN MINISTERS OF CULTURE DISCUSS CULTURAL HERITAGE

Belgrade, 9 March 2018 (Beta) - Serbian Minister of Culture and Information Vladan Vukosavljevic and Slovenian Minister of Culture Anton Persak met in Ljubljana, on March 9, and discussed issues related to items of cultural heritage preserved by the cultural institutions of both countries. Vukosavljevic and Persak also spoke about boosting cooperation in other areas of culture and art, the Serbian ministry said in a press release, noting that both sides had voiced readiness to find the best ways to improve cooperation. A meeting of expert groups from Serbia and Slovenia was held in Ljubljana on the status of cultural heritage items. The talks are to continue at the next session, taking place in Belgrade in the second half of April.

DJORDJEVIC, UAE AMBASSADOR: TWO STATES TO RUN MANY PROJECTS TOGETHER

Belgrade, 9 March 2018 (Beta) - Serbian Minister of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy Zoran Djordjevic said at a March 9 meeting with the new ambassador of the United Arab Emirates, Mubarak Saeed Al Dhaheri, that aside from the Social Insurance Agreement, there was a large number of projects the two states could run together. Djordjevic said his ministry would forward the project proposals he was confident the UAE would support. Minister Djordjevic also accepted an invitation from Minister of Human Resources and Emiratization Nasser bin Thani Juma Al Hamli to visit Abu Dhabi by the end of the year. The ambassador said that the true friendship between the two peoples reflected on the bilateral relationship, as well as the friendship between Sheikh bin Zayed and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. The diplomat added that he would use his term in Belgrade to solidify the partnership with joint activities that were in the best interest of both sides, the ministry reported.

SERBIA, CROATIA SIGN MEMORANDUM ON OVERHAULING BELGRADE-ZAGREB RAILWAY

Belgrade, 9 March 2018 (Beta) - Serbia's and Croatia's ministers in charge of transportation, Zorana Mihajlovic and Oleg Butkovic, on March 9 signed a memorandum of understanding in Belgrade on improving rail transport, which envisages the reconstruction of the Belgrade-Zagreb railway. According to plans, after the overhaul, trains are to travel from Belgrade to Zagreb at 160 kilometers per hour, shortening the trip from over seven and a half hours to just over three. The Belgrade-Zagreb railway is 412 kilometers long, 116 of which is in Serbia. Plans include the reconstruction of both tracks of the entire section from Golubinci to Sid, where Croatia's railway begins, and the modernization of the Ruma-Sid railroad. Mihajlovic and Butkovic told reporters that the working groups that would produce the project documentation to reconstruct the railway were ready and could meet as early as this month, while the ministers would meet again in Zagreb late in May. Serbia should invest EUR250 million on works on its section of the railway, while rebuilding the railway along European Corridor X will cost Croatia one billion euros. Butkovic said the three bridges connecting the two countries, which were in poor repair, had also been discussed. Mihajlovic added that a deal on bridge maintenance should be inked in April. The ministers also spoke about border crossings, and Mihajlovic announced that work on the Batrovci-Kuzmin crossing will begin as early as this month, backed by a foreign loan. The meeting included Serbian EU Integration Minister Jadranka Joksimovic, who said Serbia and Croatia had multiple sources of funding, and that Serbia, as an EU candidate member, could ask for funds for projects important to the region.

SERBIAN ENERGY MINISTER DISCUSSES PROJECTS WITH JAPANESE AMBASSADOR

Belgrade, 9 March 2018 (Beta) - Serbian Minister of Mining and Energy Aleksandar Antic met on March 9 with Japan's new ambassador to Serbia, Junichi Maruyama, to discuss energy and environmental projects. According to a press release from the ministry, the two agreed that the construction of a desulfurization facility in the Nikola Tesla power plant was developing as planned, and that the new addition would improve the environmental situation. "Cooperation with Japanese companies has multiple positive effects for Serbia, as the projects involve local workers, who have the opportunity to use the most sophisticated technology of our Japanese partners, very prominent actors in the sector," Minister Antic said. The ambassador suggested that cooperation had to be stepped up in geology and mining, too. The minister said that the measures to improve the environment and energy efficiency, modeled after Japan's strategies, were in the interest of both states and the Japanese companies.

NORWEGIAN AMBASSADOR: SERBIA MUST SHOW IT REALLY WANTS IN WITH EU

Belgrade, 9 March 2018 (Beta) - Norwegian Ambassador to Serbia Arne Sannes Bjornstad has stated that no member state of the European Union has the kind of military or security cooperation with Russia that Serbia has, explaining that practically all EU countries consider Russia a security threat. If Serbia is serious about its candidacy to join the EU, it would perhaps be wiser to take this into account and to take a policy that is more in line with that of the EU countries, thus demonstrating its readiness to be a reliable EU member, Bjornstad told the March 10 issue of the Danas daily. It's very clear that Serbia is trying to bolster its cooperation with NATO and with Russia. Considerably more attention goes to Russia, especially since parts of this cooperation are very visible, even spectacular - like buying MiG-29s for EUR185 million, or holding joint military exercises - compared to the donation of multipurpose vehicles or joint exercises in peacekeeping operations. It's like commerce, where Serbia depends on its trade with the EU, but the media seem to give a lot more attention to the considerably more limited trade with and investments from Russia, Bjornstad said. Serbia is perfectly free to continue this way, and that certainly seems to be the government's intention. The question is for how long - if Serbia is prepared to pay the price in money, trust and risk of failure that this position entails. The smaller problem is the challenge of using two types of technology and procedures, not meant to be used together. The larger one is loss of trust as a reliable partner among the nations it wants to join in the EU, he added. Asked whether "Serbia accepting the independence of Kosovo" was the central condition for joining the EU, Bjornstad said Kosovo was in fact an independent state, regardless of Serbia's opinion on the matter. That means that the current situation is such that Serbia loses in every scenario. Kosovo remains independent as Serbia spends its scant resources on denying this reality, thus losing in trade and political cooperation, he said. The ambassador also stated that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic had shown courage by expressing readiness to take a more realistic and rational approach to the Kosovo issue. On the topic of the freedom of the press, Bjornstad said he did not doubt journalists' accounts of bad experiences, pressure and attacks. It shows that the political culture in Serbia still has a long way to go, the Norwegian ambassador said.

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